2023 NHRA SONOMA NATIONALS - EVENT RESULTS
SUNDAY FINAL - HERRERA SWEEPS NHRA WESTERN SWING; ASHLEY AND TODD ALSO COLLECT SONOMA WINS
Gaige Herrera etched his name in NHRA history on Sunday as he became the first rider in Pro Stock Motorcycle history – and the first NHRA competitor since 2009 – to complete a sweep of the three-race NHRA Western Swing. He clinched victory at Sonoma Raceway during the 35th annual Denso NHRA Sonoma Nationals.
Justin Ashley (Top Fuel) and J.R. Todd (Funny Car) also secured wins at the 12th race of the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.
With history on the line, the Pro Stock Motorcycle final round was anticlimactic. The point leader Herrera recorded a time of 6.775 seconds at 198.12 mph on his Vance & Hines/Mission Foods Suzuki, defeating defending world champion Matt Smith, who encountered mechanical issues at the starting line.
Herrera, who secured the No. 1 qualifying position, has now won six times this season in a dominant display. He achieved back-to-back wins in Denver, Seattle, and Sonoma on Sunday.
To reach the finals, Herrera emerged victorious against Ryan Oehler, Marc Ingwersen, and Karen Stoffer, showcasing an outstanding performance over the past three races, which marked the first time the Pro Stock Motorcycle competed in the full Western Swing. Additionally, Herrera claimed victory in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge and the Pro Stock Motorcycle All-Star Callout, becoming only the eighth competitor in NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series history to achieve a sweep of the Western Swing.
“I can’t even put this into words,” Herrera said. “To be able to do this and accomplish what we have over the past three weeks, it’s incredible. The Denver win gave us the momentum and drive to keep pushing forward for the sweep, and to achieve it, I never thought I would join that part of history.
"I try to focus on the big picture, but as soon as I'm on the starting line, I'm focused on what I need to do. The class is tough, but I have an exceptional machine right now. The team has been supportive, and today I was able to do my job. I'm not someone who shows much emotion, but when that win light turned on, I was screaming and yelling in my helmet. To achieve all of this, I'm left speechless. I'm not very talkative to begin with, but this feeling is just incredible."
Smith, appearing in his second final of the season and the 73rd of his career, earned victories against Lance Bonham, Steve Johnson, and Eddie Krawiec to secure his spot in the championship round.
In the Top Fuel category, Ashley regained the points lead with his fifth win of the season. He outran Antron Brown in the finals, completing his run in his Phillips Connect/Toyota dragster with a time of 3.778 seconds at 328.78 mph. Ashley celebrated his first career victory at Sonoma Raceway, marking the 10th win of his career and providing an uplifting conclusion to the Western Swing.
On his path to the finals, Ashley triumphed over Doug Kalitta, No. 1 qualifier Austin Prock, and Josh Hart, ultimately defeating Brown by an incredibly close margin of .001 seconds in a thrilling side-by-side battle. This victory ensures that Ashley enters the final three races of the regular season with a 32-point lead over Steve Torrence.
“It was tough out there,” Ashley remarked. “The competition is so tough right now in Top Fuel, it feels like you're facing off in four final rounds every time. The margin of error is minimal, and it takes a true team effort to secure a win like this. I was delighted to win such a closely contested race against Antron, which is the perfect way to conclude a weekend at Sonoma Raceway."
He added, "We had a fantastic car on race day. This team remains composed, and they have a strong grasp of the car. We focus on what needs to be done each time, and that speaks volumes about the culture and leadership within the team. We have several championship-winning individuals on this team, and that makes a significant difference."
Brown reached his third final this season and the 133rd of his career after defeating Mike Salinas, defending world champion Brittany Force, and Torrence.
In Funny Car, J.R. Todd had a memorable weekend at Sonoma Raceway, walking away with a clean sweep. In the final round, Todd emerged victorious over Chad Green. The former world champion also ended a 52-race winless streak on Sunday, completing his run in the DHL Toyota GR Supra with a time of 3.972 seconds at 322.81 mph. Todd, whose last win before Sunday came at the 2021 season-opener in Gainesville, secured his 20th career win and his fourth at Sonoma Raceway.
Todd started the day with round wins against Blake Alexander, No. 1 qualifier Bob Tasca III and points leader Matt Hagan, finishing the day with a victory against Green. After coming close to a victory on the Western Swing, including a runner-up last weekend in Seattle, Todd was thrilled to close the deal in Sonoma and get Kalitta Motorsports back on the winning track.
“It’s been a long road to get here,” Todd said. “We’re getting a good handle on it and the consistency is coming around. When you’re going down the track like we are, it just gives everyone more confidence. I keep saying Funny Car is the toughest class in the sport and it’s definitely not easy. When you go two-plus years without winning, you don’t know if it’s going to happen again.
“This is my favorite track on the tour. I love coming here and anytime you can win here, it’s special. I caught myself going down the track, I don’t think I’ve had the gas pushed down that hard. I was trying to shove it through the floorboard. I was just wanting those win lights to come on and when that win light comes on in the final, it’s just instant relief. To come back and win a week after a runner-up (in Seattle), it’s just awesome.”
Green advanced to his first career final round on Sunday, knocking off Cruz Pedregon, Paul Lee and back-to-back world champ Ron Capps. Hagan leaves the Western Swing with a 19-point lead over Capps.
The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series returns to action on Aug. 11-13 with the 34th annual Menards NHRA Nationals presented by PetArmor at Heartland Motorsports Park in Topeka, Kan.
SATURDAY QUALIFYING - TASCA LEAPS TO THE FRONT OF SONOMA FC FIELD, PROCK, HERRERA MAINTAIN NO. 1
If there’s one valuable lesson Bob Tasca III learned long ago in drag racing, it’s not how you start but how you finish that matters most.
Tasca dominated the Funny Car category, while Austin Prock emerged victorious in the Top Fuel class during the final qualifying session of the 12th event in the 21-race nitro series at the Denso NHRA Sonoma Nationals. Sophomore phenom Gaige Herrera also emerged triumphant as the No. 1 qualifier and winner of the NHRA All-Star Callout event in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Tasca drove to his fourth No. 1 qualifier this season during the final session thanks to run of 3.938 at 324.05 in his 11,000-horsepower Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang, making a huge move after struggling during the first three sessions. He wasn’t able to make a run under the lights on Friday, but more than made up for to close out qualifying as he looks to defend his Sonoma victory on Sunday.
Friday's leader Alexis DeJoria finished second in qualifying with a 3.942 at 326.56 and Ron Capps’ 3.942 has him third heading into eliminations.
“That was critical data for us,” Tasca said. “Now we know we can push when we need to and we can pull back if we have to. I’m so impressed with what we’ve done and I’m looking forward to tomorrow. I love racing here. It’s one of my top five tracks and I always seem to do well here. I’m ready for tomorrow and I know my guys are going to be ready. We can run on a hot and cool track and this team is just going to keep getting better and better.”
Prock hung onto his first Top Fuel No. 1 qualifier this year in his Montana Brands/Rocky Mountain Twist Chevrolet dragster thanks to his 3.704 at 331.36 from Friday. He also put together a strong final run to close out qualifying on Saturday as he looks for his second win this season.
Seattle winner Steve Torrence finished second in qualifying with a 3.706 at 329.67 and Antron Brown’s 3.721 at 329.75 has him third.
“The No. 1s are very cool,” Prock said. “This is only my second in my career and this is my third season. They’re very hard to come by. When you qualify No. 1, it all goes to the race team. It shows that your crew chiefs and crew out did everybody out there and that’s very special. This was the first No. 1 qualifier for Chris Cunningham and Joe Barlam as a tandem so that was really special. Everybody is really proud of how this team is working and hopefully we can turn this into four round wins tomorrow.”
Herrera’s Friday pass of 6.728 at 199.94 held up to hand him a seventh No. 1 qualifier this season. On Sunday, he’ll also look to become the first rider in Pro Stock Motorcycle history to sweep the three-race NHRA Western Swing. He’s already scored one victory this weekend by winning Saturday’s NHRA All-Star Callout.
“It’s been amazing,” Herrera said. “I was out of breath after that. It was a big one and I wanted it really bad. There’s nothing like winning a Wally, but to win this first Callout for the class is pretty cool. It’s awesome for the whole team and I’m so happy right now. The amount of effort this team puts into these bikes is really amazing and it’s all paid off.
“This is special because a win like this takes a lot as a team. You get bragging rights and something like this is good for the sport and the class. We’re in a great position (to sweep the Western Swing). I’ve got all the confidence in the world in my team. I’m very excited and we’ll see what happens.”
Matt Smith qualified second thanks to his 6.729 at 200.23 from Friday, while Eddie Krawiec’s 6.771 at 199.1 put him third.
Eliminations for the Denso NHRA Sonoma Nationals begin at 10:30 a.m. PT on Sunday at Sonoma Raceway.
Sunday's first-round pairings for eliminations for the 35th annual Denso NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway, the 12th of 21 events in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings.
Top Fuel -- 1. Austin Prock, 3.704 seconds, 331.36 mph vs. Bye; 2. Steve Torrence, 3.706, 329.67 vs. 13. Ron August, 3.948, 259.31; 3. Antron Brown, 3.721, 329.75 vs. 12. Mike Salinas, 3.863, 275.96; 4. Josh Hart, 3.737, 327.74 vs. 11. Tony Schumacher, 3.833, 322.11; 5. Shawn Langdon, 3.740, 330.55 vs. 10. Leah Pruett, 3.781, 321.96; 6. Clay Millican, 3.745, 325.77 vs. 9. Brittany Force, 3.771, 318.54; 7. Justin Ashley, 3.770, 322.27 vs. 8. Doug Kalitta, 3.770, 318.54.
Funny Car -- 1. Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 3.938, 324.05 vs. Bye; 2. Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Supra, 3.942, 326.56 vs. 15. Paul Lee, Dodge Charger, 5.866, 116.51; 3. Ron Capps, Supra, 3.942, no speed vs. 14. Tim Gibbons, Charger, 5.114, 148.28; 4. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.949, 328.06 vs. 13. Alex Laughlin, Charger, 4.141, 287.35; 5. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.951, 333.49 vs. 12. Jason Rupert, Mustang, 4.128, 305.15; 6. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.952, 325.22 vs. 11. John Force, Camaro, 3.983, 320.89; 7. Chad Green, Mustang, 3.952, 324.20 vs. 10. Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 3.973, 322.27; 8. J.R. Todd, Supra, 3.966, 324.90 vs. 9. Blake Alexander, Mustang, 3.967, 319.29.
Pro Stock Motorcycle -- 1. Gaige Herrera, Suzuki, 6.728, 199.94 vs. 16. Ryan Oehler, EBR, 8.814, 96.74; 2. Matt Smith, Suzuki, 6.729, 200.23 vs. 15. Lance Bonham, Buell, 7.185, 190.51; 3. Eddie Krawiec, Suzuki, 6.771, 199.91 vs. 14. John Hall, Buell, 6.956, 193.18; 4. Hector Arana Jr, EBR, 6.791, 199.88 vs. 13. Freddie Camarena, Suzuki, 6.926, 195.53; 5. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.792, 198.17 vs. 12. Chris Bostick, EBR, 6.909, 192.60; 6. Angie Smith, EBR, 6.802, 199.43 vs. 11. Chase Van Sant, Suzuki, 6.867, 195.79; 7. Jianna Evaristo, Suzuki, 6.820, 198.64 vs. 10. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.844, 194.24; 8. Marc Ingwersen, EBR, 6.829, 198.03 vs. 9. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 6.840, 198.06.
Did Not Qualify: 17. Scott Bottorff, broke.
SATURDAY QUALIFYING - TORRENCE, TODD HEADLINE SONOMA MISSION #2FAST2TASTY WINNERS
J.R. Todd and Steve Torrence emerged as the victors in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge in Sonoma.
Todd, a two-time NHRA champion, secured his first win in the race-within-race specialty series with an impressive run of 3.977 at 322.81 mph in his DHL Toyota GR Supra. Blake Alexander, his final-round opponent, suffered a mechanical issue at the starting line. ,
This victory marked Todd’s first win of any kind since the season-opener at Gainesville back in 2021. His breakthrough performance on Saturday followed a series of strong performances during the Western Swing, including a runner-up position in Seattle.
“Any win is a good win,” Todd said. “I feel let the last two slip away from us in Denver and the final round in Seattle. It’s been a while since we’ve won anything, so this is good momentum headed into race day, and hopefully, we can finish it off tomorrow. I feel like we’ve been building momentum since (Norwalk) with our DHL Toyota GR Supra.
“We’ve definitely been knocking on the door of a win. It just goes to show how hard it is to win in Funny Car right now. Just when you think you’ve got it where you need it and it’s going to be your day, somebody like Tim Wilkerson (Seattle winner) jumps up and snatches it from you. So, hopefully, we can ride this wave of momentum into the final again at one of my favorite tracks. It would be really special.”
Four-time Top Fuel champion Torrence claimed his second consecutive victory in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge. Following his impressive performance in Seattle, Torrence continued his winning streak by defeating Clay Millican in the bonus race finals.
Torrence raced to the win with an elapsed time of 3.7888 seconds at 326.08 mph to beat Millican’s quicker but losing 3.781.
Torrence’s recent success in Seattle propelled him back into the points lead, instilling him with confidence for another potential double-up in Sonoma.
“Everything is going really well for us right now,” Torrence said. “The car has showed glimmers of hope throughout last year, mainly at the end of the year and now this year. The consistency is finally coming there. To win on a holeshot, that always makes you feel good as a driver. That was the best light I’ve had all weekend. I’ve been pretty late on the tree, and I was just amped up.
“When you go up there, it’s not just another round of qualifying; it’s a race win. We’re going to try to finish this Western Swing with a win and keep this momentum going.”
Eliminations for the Denso NHRA Sonoma Nationals begin at 10:30 a.m. PT on Sunday at Sonoma Raceway.
TOP FUEL CHALLENGE:
ROUND ONE -- Clay Millican, 3.793, 330.88 def. Doug Kalitta, 4.537, 151.15; Steve Torrence, 3.765, 328.94 def. Shawn Langdon, 5.899, 106.19;
FINAL -- S. Torrence, 3.788, 326.08 def. C. Millican, 3.781, 326.32.
FUNNY CAR CHALLENGE:
ROUND ONE -- Blake Alexander, Ford Mustang, 4.107, 269.13 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, Foul - Centerline; J.R. Todd, Toyota Supra, 4.097, 264.08 def. Chad Green, Mustang, 4.905, 163.81;
FINAL -- J. Todd, 3.977, 322.81 def. B. Alexander, Broke.
FRIDAY QUALIFYING - PROCK, DEJORIA AND HERRERA TAKE THE EARLY LEAD IN NHRA SONOMA NATS QUALIFYING
Top Fuel driver Austin Prock emerged as the provisional No. 1 qualifier at the 35th annual Denso NHRA Sonoma Nationals with a run of 3.704 seconds at 331.36 mph.
Joining him atop their respective Camping World Drag Racing Series divisions were Alexis DeJoria (Funny Car) and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle)
Currently fifth in points, Prock expressed his satisfaction with his team’s performance.
“I haven’t been that quick in a while,” Prock said. “I love working with this team and I have not had much success on the Western Swing in my career. I was very proud of what we did tonight. We dropped a cylinder on the first run and I was pretty mad. But I knew we were going to go up there and make a good run, and it rebounded nicely.
“The conditions are going to be totally different tomorrow, but you can’t take anything bad out of going No. 1. We’ll just roll into tomorrow and have a little bit more confidence than we had today.”
Points leader Steve Torrence, who won last weekend in Seattle, is currently second after his run of 3.706 at 329.67 and Antron Brown is third with his run of 3.721 at 329.75.
Meanwhile, DeJoria piloted her Bandero Tequila Toyota GR Supra in the Funny Car category to a strong run of 3.942 seconds at 326.56 mph, setting her on track for her first No. 1 qualifier in 2023.
“Consistent runs are always good," DeJoria said. "We were hoping to run a bit faster tonight, but we still made it down the track and I'm happy about that as well. Our team is just excellent. They've given me a great car this season and we've had the best start to a season yet. We're just missing that win.
"All the stuff we learned through the trials and tribulations from last year has really paid off. We've come so close (to a race win) so many times. On a good day when everything lines up, we're going to get that win. We're so close - right on the cusp of it."
Capps, the back-to-back world champ, is currently second with a run of 3.942 and points leader Matt Hagan is right behind in third after his pass of 3.951 at 333.49 during the opening session.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, point leader Herrera continued showcasing his dominance, grabbing the provisional No. 1 qualifier spot by clocking a time of 6.728 seconds at 199.94 mph. This performance puts Herrera, who has a chance to sweep the Western Swing, on track for his impressive seventh No. 1 qualifier of the season.
Along with competing in the Pro Stock Motorcycle All-Star Callout on Saturday, Herrera has a chance to make history on Sunday and he is excited to be part of it.
“We made some changes on the second pass and were able to go to the top," Herrera said. "I would say I enjoy all this more. Being busy and running around, I like it, and hopefully I'm able to do well in the Callout. For me, it takes me back to where I came from when it comes to racing. It was always non-stop and I'm really looking forward to it. It's going to be exciting. I never expected to have a chance (to sweep the Western Swing). I just have to mentally prepare myself and do my job."
Defending world champ M. Smith is currently second after going 6.729 at 200.23, making the only 200-mph run of Friday. A. Smith is third thanks to her run of 6.818 at 199.64 in the opening session.
Qualifying will continue on Saturday at Sonoma Raceway, with the first round of the Pro Stock Motorcycle All-Star Callout set to commence at 12:30 p.m. PT.
Friday's results after the first two of four rounds of qualifying for the 35th annual Denso NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway, 12th of 21 events in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series. Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday's final eliminations.
Top Fuel -- 1. Austin Prock, 3.704 seconds, 331.36 mph; 2. Steve Torrence, 3.706, 329.67; 3. Antron Brown, 3.721, 329.75; 4. Josh Hart, 3.737, 327.74; 5. Shawn Langdon, 3.740, 330.55; 6. Clay Millican, 3.745, 325.77; 7. Brittany Force, 3.771, 318.54; 8. Justin Ashley, 3.779, 326.63; 9. Leah Pruett, 3.781, 321.96; 10. Mike Salinas, 4.150, 202.15; 11. Doug Kalitta, 4.219, 205.16; 12. Tony Schumacher, 4.799, 150.18; 13. Ron August, 8.658, 72.11.
Funny Car -- 1. Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Supra, 3.942, 326.56; 2. Ron Capps, Supra, 3.942, no speed; 3. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.951, 333.49; 4. J.R. Todd, Supra, 3.966, 324.90; 5. Blake Alexander, Ford Mustang, 3.967, 319.29; 6. Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 3.973, 322.27; 7. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.974, 319.60; 8. Chad Green, Mustang, 3.983, 317.57; 9. Alex Laughlin, Charger, 4.141, 287.35; 10. John Force, Chevy Camaro, 4.648, 161.07; 11. Robert Hight, Camaro, 4.864, 90.66; 12. Tim Gibbons, Charger, 5.114, 148.28; 13. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 5.290, 48.79; 14. Jason Rupert, Mustang, 5.428, 131.57; 15. Paul Lee, Charger, 6.784, 92.13.
Pro Stock Motorcycle -- 1. Gaige Herrera, Suzuki, 6.728, 199.94; 2. Matt Smith, Suzuki, 6.729, 200.23; 3. Angie Smith, EBR, 6.818, 199.64; 4. Jianna Evaristo, Suzuki, 6.821, 197.88; 5. Marc Ingwersen, EBR, 6.829, 198.03; 6. Eddie Krawiec, Suzuki, 6.835, 198.70; 7. Chase Van Sant, Suzuki, 6.867, 195.79; 8. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.885, 190.65; 9. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 6.887, 194.32; 10. Chris Bostick, EBR, 6.909, 192.60; 11. Freddie Camarena, Suzuki, 6.947, 189.73; 12. Hector Arana Jr, EBR, 6.955, 197.02; 13. John HallBuell, 7.026, 191.95; 14. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 7.196, 186.98; 15. Lance Bonham, Buell, 7.331, 183.77; 16. Ryan Oehler, EBR, 9.512, 90.86. Not Qualified: 17. Scott Bottorff, broke.